Music Rights and Copyrights Law in the USA and the World: Understanding the Basics

music law and rights usa

Everyone is proud of their creations, whether a piece of art, song, poem, music, school play, among others. Musicians equally take time and energy to create the songs. If someone reproduced the same without permission, then it will be so upsetting. This is the reason why copyright is there to protect musicians for their hard-earned work. The copyrights happen to be one of the problematic areas of the law. However, you need to understand the fundamentals to protect your art in the best way possible. Here are five basics every musician should master:

What Is Copyright & How It’s Law Protects The Work

Copyright is the area of law that directly affects music. You probably have heard about the term, but what exactly it does might be a bit complicated.

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Copyright protects the original work of creative expressions that are fixed in a tangible form. Artistic works in music are divided into two; sound recordings and musical works. Both are covered under copyright laws, and no one else has permission to copy or distribute.

The duration of copyright

Although the copyrights will is not eternal, it covers you for a pretty long time. Under the current law in the USA, copyrights take effect upon the creation of work and last for 70 years after the death of the author. Upon expiry of the copyrights, anyone can use the work without permission.

 If two authors produced a piece, then the copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the last surviving author.  

Rights you have after obtaining copyright in your music

If you own creative work, then there are certain rights granted under copyright laws. You have a privilege to reproduce, prepare derivative works, distribute copies, perform the action publicly, and display the copyrighted work in the public domain.

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Precisely, you have a right to record, sell, and distribute your music in various formats and to do new work based on previous music, stream your music, and post them online. It also allows you to take legal action against anyone infringing on your copyrights.

How to register for copyrights

The copyright takes effect automatically upon music creation. However, to enforce your rights, you will need to register your work with relevant copyrights offices. When someone uses your work without permission termed as copyright infringement, then you can take them to court. Registering your work upon creation works for you, and the process is simple and affordable. Once you submit all the required documents to copyright offices, the registration takes effect.

How to record and distribute cover songs

As a musician, the last thing you want is to be on the wrong side of the law. Not only will you be fined for using songs of other people without permission, but your reputation in the music industry is tarnished. However, you can deal with cover songs by obtaining a mechanical license. Various companies provide mechanical permits, and once you get, you can use the musical composition of other artists.

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The above basic concepts on music rights and copyrights help in protecting one’s creation. You should register for the copyright to be in a position to enforce your rights. Otherwise, avoid getting on the wrong side by getting a mechanical license before using the works of other artists.  

Billy K. Hicks

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